Psychology of American Football / Gridiron / NFL

Psychology of American Football. Picture from Big Stock Photo. LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 03 2019: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, Gardner Minshew during the NFL game between Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium

The Psychology of American Football – An Introduction

American Football is one of those sports that goes by different names. The official name is gridiron but most of those in the United States refer to it as NFL despite this just being the name of the highest league. For this article I shall simply refer to it as American Football.

American Football is a sport littered with inspirational quotes and messages. Some are from real life whilst others are from television and/or films. One that is applicable to everyone in a competitive situation came from Cincinnati Bengals running back Archie Griffin. He famously once said “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog”. When you start to sift through them (a quick Google of “American Football quotes” is a worthwhile exercise), you soon realise a large portion are related to the mental side of the game.

Not Just Brutality And Physical Aggressiveness

American Football is known for its brutality and physical aggressiveness but as soon as I started to work with these athletes, from the professional level to high school footballers, it became clear that without the right mental processes talent and physical aptitude wouldn’t lead to the success these individuals desired. They needed mental skills that promoted acceptance, resilience, patience and a mindset that not only recognised their performance but also how it fits into the bigger picture of the offensive or defensive schemes coaches are drawing up. American Football is nuanced and it’s the mental challenges of the sport that take an individual from being good to great to a ‘hall of fame inductee’.

What Are Some Of These Mental Processes?

Let’s look at some of these mental processes and mindsets that can begin to improve the American Football psychology of players who participate on Fridays (high school football), Saturdays (college football) or Sundays (the NFL). 

One of the first things about American Football that will stand out to anyone participating or observing is the structure of the game. Every play called is meticulously considered in order to create an advantage for the team and each player has a very particular role to play to execute the play successfully. Aside from trick plays, players fill very individualised roles and this is where we begin to see why good mental processes are important for optimal performance. 

As with any team sport one player cannot do everything and this is even truer in American Football. For example, a quarterback can’t snap the ball, drop back and then pass it to themselves. They need the assistance of their teammates to be able to not only have time to throw the ball but also to see a pass completed. To manage the challenge of this, a player needs to have a good practice of acceptance where they can understand their role and focus on completing their given task instead of being distracted by what others on their team are doing.

A large part of The Psychology of American Football is knowing what your role is.

In speaking with an American Football coach, we used the analogy that for each play, we need to imagine the 11 players on the field are on a boat with 11 leaks. If each player deals with their leak then the boat continues to sail. However, as soon as one person starts focusing on the other leaks or even tries to go and stop the leak somewhere else then they expose themselves. A great example of this is on the offensive line where we need to trust our teammates to hit and stick their blocks rather than trying to block all of the oncoming pass rushers and being found out as a result. This is not the same for less pre-rehearsed sports like soccer whereby from time to time you need to help your teammate fix his or her leak.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance (being good at it) comes from the field of psychology in the form of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. At Condor Performance, we look at this by focusing on the level of influence we have in any given moment. We want athletes to channel their energies and efforts into making sure the things that are highly influenceable are what they are taking responsibility for in a sporting context. To put it simply, our own actions are highly influenceable while the actions of others are a much lower level of influenceable. When we accept this, we let go and allow others to do their job while we do ours. We are better focused, can more effectively judge our own performance and are a more complimenting fit within the structure of the team. We can also use this mentality to reset between each play and make sure we know our role and are locked in on accomplishing it while also motivating and encouraging others with theirs where possible.

Another element that stands out is the flow of the game between plays. The stop-start nature of the sport provides the players with a chance to huddle together and reset their intentions on the next play. It also provides the opportunity for each player to reset themselves to ensure that they are fully committed to what comes next – irrespective if previous plays went their way or not. In a sport like American Football it doesn’t matter whether you missed an assignment or ran the wrong route the previous play because it can’t be undone. All we can do is know what is being asked of us this play and look to execute to the best of our abilities with 100% effort. To make this reset work consistently it can be worthwhile to think about different actions that we use to settle, such as taking a deep breath, clapping as we come out of the huddle, redoing the velcro on our gloves, the way we get set in our stance, etc. Having this reset action helps remind us to start again and be committed to what we are trying to execute.

Psychology of American Football For Coaches

If you’re the coach or a leader on the team and you want to be able to take this idea of resetting one step further, then you can look at how the the offensive and defensive teams retake the field following a change of possession. When the unit goes back out onto the field it is an important opportunity to have players focus on landing the metaphorical first punch and creating some momentum on this particular drive. Even if previous possessions resulted in a poor outcome the other team does not have any advantage when this one starts unless we let them by focusing on the past which we cannot change. Just like a boxer coming out for the next round we want to establish ourselves and perform to our plan and create some ascendency that we can build on with each play. This is achieved through communication and the way we look to motivate and create energy in our athletes and teammates. We want to ensure we aren’t placing unnecessary pressure on their shoulders and instead highlighting that the ultimate goal of each possession is exactly the same: to have committed players on the field who know their roles and are giving 100% effort on each play. If you can get 11 players all buying into that philosophy and letting their actions do the talking we know we’ve got them in the right headspace. 

For individual players, one thing we also want to keep in mind is that the football we play wants to ignore any element of what I term the “fantasy football headspace”. What I mean by this is that we don’t want to judge our own performances the way we judge players in fantasy football, i.e. stats are the most important thing and highlight good performance. For every player, regardless of position, I would encourage you to develop ways of defining good performance that don’t have anything to do with the stats or outcome. If you’re a quarterback, how do you know you’ve had a good game without referring to touchdowns/interceptions thrown or yardage in the air? If you’re a wide receiver, how do you know you’ve had a good game without referring to receptions or yards? If you a defensive player. how do you define a good game without referring to interceptions, passes deflected, tackles made or points given up? The answer to this question will help you understand effort and take your performances to an even higher level of consistency because we aren’t reacting to previous plays and instead are locked in on recommitting to the next one. I will say that if you are struggling to answer that particular question, another way of answering it would be understanding what it looks like to compete out there on the field. How you compete has nothing to do with your outcomes and everything to do with the way you try to breakdown your opponents with movement, footwork, decision making, energy and competitiveness.

While each position in a game of American Football is different the mental elements of performance highlighted in this blog provide insight into how we can begin to get the most out of ourselves and our abilities. They are universal for all players and by making some adjustments you will better play your role for the team and leave the game having made a greater influence on how proceedings played out.

If your are an American Football player or coach and would like the assistance from one of our growing team of sport psychologists / performance psychologists then the best place to start is by completing the applicable Mental Toughness Questionnaire at here. Once done, one of our team will then get back to you with your results and, if you have asked for it, detailed information about our sport psychology services.

Baseball Psychology

Baseball Psychology Is A Ten Minute Read by Performance Psychologist David Barracosa On The Mental Aspects Of Baseball

There Is A Lot Of Psychology In The Sport Of Baseball

Introduction

When I applied for a position at Condor Performance a little over 10 years ago one of the first questions that Gareth asked me was which sports I considered to be the most mentally challenging. It’s a difficult question because every sport has its challenges which Madalyn and Morgan have outlined in their excellent recent blog articles. However, after some consideration and debate with my family the two that that I landed on were Baseball and Biathlon. The focus of this blog is going to be on the mental side of baseball (or Baseball Psychology) by exploring what these challenges are and different approaches we can take to best manage them and allow our performances to thrive.

Why Is Baseball So Psychologically Challenging?

Now I will say that the answer of baseball as one of the most mentally challenging sports might have a touch of bias to it as I spent most of the afternoons and weekends during my youth toiling away trying to be the best first basemen and clean up hitter that I could be. I love the sport and everything about it including its unique challenges that for me add to the excitement and spectacle that is America’s pastime. Since working for Condor Performance (Gareth must have liked the answer to the previous question amongst others during the intake process haha) I have had the chance to work with a number of baseball players at all levels of the sport and this has given me the opportunity to see how individuals react to the challenges that are thrown their way (literally and metaphorically) and also determine what works and does not work in terms of strengthening performance.

Analysing baseball performance and determining player strength is something that for a long time has come under the microscope of sabermetrics. If you are not familiar with this term it was coined by Bill James to evaluate in-game performances of players and something that was brought to Hollywood via the movie “Moneyball”. Through these practices baseball has become obsessed with statistics and this has filtered down into the mindset of a lot of players I have worked with who are more focused on box score performance rather than the actions and intentions that make up their time on the field. What this means is that a significant part of any improvement to a baseball player’s mindset is about shifting their attention away from being statistically motivated to being process orientated. Statistics muddy the waters and focussing on them essentially means we are trying to control too much of what happens in the game which leads to overthinking, self-doubts, knee jerk changes to our approach and a greater level of emotional variability. All of these factors are the kryptonite to process consistency which wants to be the goal that we are all striving for. Of cause this is true for many sports but baseball is particularly susceptible to an obsession with outcomes (both large and small).

It’s How You Handle The Stats!

Now I know a lot of people might be reading this and thinking that statistics are important especially if you’re a player trying to earn more playing time or generate college offers. To an extent this is true. They are important but they don’t want to be the focus or the way we judge our own performances. They assume too much and don’t represent the cog in the machine that we have control over. To me statistics are the taste of your favourite meal whereas processes and tactical wisdom is the recipe that allows you to produce that taste. I am much more interested in knowing whether we executed the recipe correctly because this will go a long way to determining the taste of the meal. In baseball terms I’m more interested in knowing that you took an aggressive mindset at the plate and followed your pre-pitch routine which resulted in hard hit line drives that might have been caught in the outfield than being distracted by what happened in your last at bat, worrying about getting on base safely and therefore you’re not locked in but managing to bloop a couple of safe hits. The former of these scenarios represents process and performance consistency and that drives confidence even if the statistics don’t align.

If we take a statistics only (mostly) frame of mind I believe we get distracted from the essence of baseball (and any other sport to be honest) which is the competitiveness between two opponents. Whether you are the pitcher, batter, fielder or base runner you are engaged in a contest and in order to put our best foot forward in the contest we want to be focused on the present moment, be routine based and active with our processes. Strengthening these three mental skills will help take any baseball player’s performance to the next level.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Baseball Psychology

Being focused in the present moment aligns itself with the approach of mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. If you look at being consistent in terms of thoughts and emotions we need to observe how a focus on different points in time affect us. Focusing on the past can generate an internal experience of frustration, disappointment and regret whereas focusing on the future can generate an experience of stress, anxiety and excitement. When you put these ingredients into the performance pot what I have found is that it either distracts or causes an individual to rush, not the mindset we want to have. Baseball (like volleyball, golf, cricket, American football and tennis) is a stop-start sport which means that there is a clear distinction of what the present moment is, i.e. this pitch.

This pitch is the only one I can actually do something about from any position on the field. As a pitcher its the only one I have control over throwing, as a hitter its the only one I can look to hit and as a fielder it is the only one I can make a play on. All the pitches that were previously thrown are done and cannot be changed even if we made a mistake or missed an opportunity to have an impact. All future pitches are irrelevant because we have no idea what is going to happen. It’s this pitch (and only this pitch) that I can contribute on and therefore we want to be locked in on ensuring it gets our full attention.

Repeatable Routines Are Key

The way that we can increase that present moment focus is by being routine based. When the play pauses while the ball is thrown back to the pitcher and they reset before going again is a really good opportunity to make sure we lock back in for the next play. I remember a junior coach that I had who would always say that each pitch when you’re in the field you need to expect the ball to be hit to you so you’re ready to make a play. Having a routine can help with this by making sure that we know the game situation, are walking in with the pitch to ensure we are on our toes and are ready to be active if the ball is hit our way.

The same applies at the plate or on the mound where we can go through a routine (think David Ortiz at the plate or Craig Kimbrel on the mound as exaggerated but effective examples of having a routine before every pitch). Irrespective of what has happened the routine is exactly the same and ensures that when they are set and ready to go. The only thing we are focusing on is this moment and the opportunity to contribute. If you are designing your own routine then the thing that is important to keep in mind is that it is very action based because no matter the situation we want to be confident that our routine can hold strong. If it is too mental (e.g. reminder words etc) there’s a chance we lose it to distraction whereas no matter what circumstance we can execute a series of small behaviours to ready ourselves for what’s to come next.

Once we have readied ourselves and have that focused locked in we give ourselves an opportunity to land a punch in this contest. Baseball is made up of split second decisions so being primed for the moment is essential to playing on the front foot proactively rather than being reactive and chasing the moment. I mentioned earlier that each pitch is a chance to contribute and this is absolutely true. I see too often players will have altered intentions based on what’s occurred previously and the most common of these is a tendency to play it conservative when things have not gone their way, e.g. let a ball drop in the field instead of laying out for it, not throwing an off-speed pitch when there’s a runner on third or waiting for the pitch rather than looking to attack it at the plate. In each of these situations we have drastically reduced our chances of showcasing our strengths and skillset and if you are too statistically minded we have also reduced the chances of being successful in that way as well.

Staying True To Our Processes

Staying true to our processes is designed to help us be aggressive and look to command the moment whereas getting caught focusing on something out of the present moment means we lose that command. We begin to play like we have something to lose instead of playing like we have something to win. We play to avoid mistakes instead of creating success. We catch ourselves worrying more about the opinions of others than the pride we have in ourselves.

The strength of our processes ultimately comes down to how we practice. If we are reinforcing our processes and routines in that space then they are likely to show up in a game. Think about throwing a bullpen or taking batting practice and often it’s about volume and repetitions. What you might like to think about is slowing it down and making sure there is a space for your routine which I think can also increase the quality of the work you are putting in. The application of processes in practice also means that we can create a sense of confidence and test ourselves in that forum so that we have trust that in pressure moments the same version of ourselves is going to show up to compete. In other words the pattern of how we practice is the pattern of how we will compete.

A Final Thought …

The final thought I have is that the pace of baseball ultimately means there is a lot of thinking time. The ideas presented in this blog will help ensure that the thinking time actually turns into a bit more doing time and allows you to stay consistent over the course of nine innings and see the best version of yourself showing up to compete.

Post Sporting Career Depression (PSCD)

Post Sporting Career Depression (PSCD) is common and it’s not going away. Performance psychologist David Barracosa looks into this issue.

Post Sporting Career Depression is very common
Post Sporting Career Depression is very common amongst elite athletes

The processes and challenges of adjusting to life after sport for elite athletes is starting to get some limelight. These issues were highlighted in a 2017 episode of 4 Corners called After The Game that is really worth watching. The episode made it clear that vast improvements are needed in this space. Not only during the period after retirement, but also with athletes during their career in order to prepare them for the inevitable. Yes, that’s right all sporting careers will come to an end. But not all athletes will suffer from what we call Post Sporting Career Depression (PSCD). Unlike other depressions that can follow events such as birth (Post Natal Depression) PSCD is yet to be officially recognised.

Juggling Life and Sporting Goals

Elite athletes often struggle with the juggling act between their sport and their life. How much time and energy for sporting goals versus the years following “the glory days”. This is a common concern for anyone chasing a significant and challenging goal, not just athletes. Think about the young medical intern who also has small children at home.

As sport and performance psychologists we often assist our client with this very delicate balancing act.

When setting goals it can be a good idea to make them more holistic rather than just focusing on sport. So, instead of “to sign a professional contract with an EPL club” it might be more meaningful to target “life satisfaction” for example. After all it’s likely that these sporting goals are being targeted as a means to be happy.

Sporting Successful Without Happiness is Not A Win

We are in no way ignoring the importance of an individual’s sporting goals. But maybe these achievements are better “KPIs” to be reviewed. To ensure that progress is made and is leading towards life satisfaction or happiness. This is a valuable adjustment because it acknowledges that sport is a key contributor to your overall well being. But it also asks the question of what else contributes to this experience. Examples of other KPIs might be improving health, building stronger relationships. Or even the concept of TOTIWBEA.

The Other Thing I Want to Be Excellent At

TOTIWBEA stands for The Other Thing I Want to Be Excellent At and it can be anything you want it to be. It can be another sport, an alternate career, pathway of education, relationship, or anything else you can come up with. The reason it’s so important is that it prevents an athlete or coach from being defined solely by their sport. This is dangerous because when the sport is gone, so to is an individual’s identity unless they have other meaningful areas in their life.

To use an old cliche, we simply don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.

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The balance that can be created through a pursuit of TOTIWBEA can be critical to on-field performance. People who have multiple passions and gain meaning from different areas are less likely to be significantly impacted by pressures from one of these areas.

Think about it for a second. If you are a cricketer who only has cricket in your life how will you feel during a ‘form slump’ compared with a more balanced teammate going through the same?

Or you are struck down by injury or are on the cusp of being dropped from the first team? And sport is the sole focus and contributor to your well being? The stress of this is going to have a more significant impact than on an individual who places importance on building relationships or their pursuit of education.

These other areas can provide support and structure for you to manage the stress while still moving in a positive direction in your life. A lot of people do have these other areas but if they aren’t given the recognition or highlighted as important then their benefits can be missed.

Off Field Areas Impacting On Field Performances

Another factor linked to on-field performance is stress. Stress experienced through a lack of balance can impact on an athlete’s quality and quantity of effort. What we tend to notice in individuals is that when their stress becomes significant their training output drops. When this happens they start to increase the quantity that they are putting in to make up the difference. This unfortunately leaves less time for the other areas of their life. This creates further imbalance and makes it more difficult to achieve satisfaction in these other meaningful domains. It’s a classic viscous cycle.

The final suggestion about managing this important area of an athlete’s performance is not for them but actually for coaches, administrators and potentially other psychologists. While our role is to help athletes work towards creating the best opportunities to achieve their sporting goals, we can’t ignore the fact that it is not forever. In a lot of sports, playing professionally at 40 years of age is an anomaly. There a lot of years post-retirement for an athlete to continue to have a meaningful life. We need to have honest conversations and point out the importance of balance because this may be lost for an athlete in their pursuit of excellence. They aren’t easy conversations, but they may prove to be the most important.

If you’d like to email me personally regarding any of the above or any other performance psychology topic then feel free to do so at [email protected] and I will try to reply as quickly as possible. Cheers, David.

Please note that this post was originally published in 2017 but was recently updated and improved. Since then an amazing book called Range by David Epstein has been published which I’d highly recommend.

Sport Psychology Tips

Some Free Sport Psychology Tips to help you perform better by leading performance psychologist David Barracosa of Condor Performance

26 Free Sport Psychology Ideas

An A to Z Guide To SportsPsychology

Although sport psychology can be a complex and quickly evolving field it can still allow for some “quick wins”. With this in mind please enjoy these Sport Psychology Tips and don’t forget to add your comments below!

A is for Attitude

It may be surprising but in our work, as sport and performance psychologists we actually don’t refer to attitude much. Attitude is just one of many type of human cognition. When a coach refers to an athlete as having ‘the right attitude’ he or she is probably suggesting that this athlete’s values and beliefs are in line with their own.

For example, both might regard sporting results as important but not as important as hard work and effort. The most interesting aspect of attitude is it is often assessed via observations (a coach watching an athlete in training). Due to this it is probably body language that is actually being appraised. Attitude, if we take the term literally, is not directly observable as it’s occurring inside the mind.

B is for Body Language

Body language is a fascinating area of performance psychology. Research suggests that it dominates how we communicate compared with the actual words we use. In sporting contexts, this makes even more sense as it is quite normal for there to be little or no verbal communication. With maybe the exception of the captains or leaders of sporting teams, most athletes of most sports don’t say very much during both training and whilst competing.

For this majority, communicating with either teammates or opponents is taking place via the body. By the body, we mean entire body from facial expressions to posture to hand gestures and everything in between. How do you improve body language? I would suggest starting out by filming yourself in a variety of situations and then watch it back with the sound off.

C is for Consistency

Sometimes we refer to consistency as ‘the holy grail’ of competitive sport. As can be read in this extensive blog by our colleague Chris Pomfret improved consistency is really just the consequence of taking the mental side of your sport seriously.

D is for Determination

Determination is very similar to the mental concept as motivation without being a synonym. Motivation, at least as defined by our coaching philosophy Metuf, is more about enthusiasm, enjoyment, desire and dreams. Determination might be a good word to refer to the actions we continue with during times in which the enthusiasm for our sport is not there. One of the most common examples of this is when the scoreboard is not in your favour (no way to win with time remaining). Yet, despite this you decide to preservative anyway. This is a great example of sporting determination.

E is for Enjoyment

The enjoyment we’re referring to in this instance is the kind that most kids tend to have towards their sport before it becomes ‘serious’. The fun of chasing the ball more than getting to it first. The issue is, this enjoyment tends to dissipate once the stakes increase. Far too many sporting coaches become far too intense during competitions due to a lack of sport psychology training during their accreditation. This is one of the many reasons why we have always wanted to work 1-on-1 with sporting coaches.

F is for Focus 

Learning to improve focus is actually one of the easier mental skills. It really boils down to knowing when and how to switch on – and then practising this like any other skill. There are many great examples of how to do this but amongst the most effective are the short performance routines that I wrote about in our last blog article. I say easier in comparison to various other mental skills which although very effective can be somewhat critic in nature.

There is no getting away from the fact that training the mind is always going to be a trickier mountain to climb due to the investable nature of what we’re targeting for improvement. For example, areas such as focus.

G is for Grit 

Grit is a term which has gained a lot of momentum recently due mainly to the works of Angela Duckworth (see YouTube video below). Grit is defined via it’s Wikipedia page as a “…non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective). This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie on the path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realisation. Distinct but commonly associated concepts within the field of psychology include “perseverance”, “hardiness“, “resilience“, “ambition”, “need for achievement” and “conscientiousness“.

Our monthly clients, as well as long-time readers of the Mental Toughness Digest, will rightly feel that many of these words – perseverance, effort, ambition are very familiar to them as they are cornerstone concepts of Metuf.

H is for Hard Work

There is simply no substitute for hard work. 

I is for Influence

Knowing the amount of influence you have on some of the more common aspects of your sport (or performance areas) is mighty useful. A great little exercise you can do is to start a simple three-column table. The heading of the first column is ‘Lots of Influence’, for the second write “Some Influence” and for the final one label it “Little Influence”.

Now start to fill in the table with whatever comes to mind. For example, you might be spending a lot of time thinking about an upcoming competition combined with memories of how you did at the same venue last year. So you might decide to put the Future in the middle column and the Past in the right-hand column – for instance.

J is for Junior Sport

If I were in charge of sport in a particular state or country I would flip funding so that the vast majority of recourses went into the junior or developmental side of sports. In other words, the best coaches, equipment and facilities normally only accessible to the top 0.1% of athletes would be diverted to athletes under the age of 16.

For example, those regarded as the very best coaches – like Wayne Bennett in rugby league – would be invited to coach junior rugby league players instead. I would make sure that whatever position was created for this had the same or greater salary as top-flight professional coaches.

K is for Keeping Going

Maybe the most powerful cue words in sport. Your mind will virtually always quit on you before your body does. Tell it to Keep Going and see what happens.

L is for Learning

There is a reason why some of the very best sporting coaches of all time – for example, Jake White – are formers teachers. They treat the process of performance enhancement as one long learning experience for both themselves and their players. The most appealing aspect of this angle is that poor performances are used as learning opportunities. Errors, for example, are considered as invaluable elements of feedback – data that can be used to inform better choices moving forward. 

M is for Monitoring

If you are not monitoring at least one aspect of your endeavours you’re missing out. At Condor Performance we encourage our sporting and non-sporting clients to record one or more “monthly checks”. As can be read in detail from this recent blog post these monthly checks are like our key performance indicators. As long as you know the right number of monthly checks to monitor (not too many) and the amount of influence you have on each of these results (not as much as you think) there is zero downsides to this kind of self-monitoring and plenty of upsides.


N is for Numbers

Whether you like it or not competitive sport – especially at the elite level – is full of numbers. In fact certain sports, like cricket and baseball are so mathematical in nature that the coaches of these sports would be forgiven for thinking of themselves more like statisticians from time to time. This is one of the reasons why we encourage our monthly clients to monitor their own progress – to allow them to function, even thrive in a results-oriented world. The other reasons have already been mentioned above in the M for monitoring.

O is for Objectivity

Both the M and the N above help with objectively but alone might not be enough. Objectively is roughly the opposite of subjectively with the latter being heavy on opinions with the former much more based on facts. For example, it’s quite normal for athletes and coaches to assess past performances based mostly (or only) on memory or even worse, based on the final result. This is highly subjective and a bit like any human pursuit we’d want to be careful about how much of our analysis is subjective. Objective analysis – for example, the number of missed tackles –  will be more valuable as the numbers don’t lie.

Actually, this is not true – numbers can lie but are less likely to do so than opinions.

P is for Pressure

‘Pressure’ is one of the most fascinating aspects of sports psychology. For a start, it’s 100% internal – it’s a feeling with very real physiological sensations – a little bit like hunger. Because it’s going on inside it’s less tangible and therefore harder to manage. To start with, it’s really important not to consider pressure as being good or bad. Let me use hunger to explain. Hunger, for most of us, is simply a signal for us to go an eat something. Once we do, the hunger goes away. The food that alleviates the hunger that is pressure is practice. That’s right, high-quality practice is like a pile of organic veggies.

Of course, there is also a benefit to learning to deal with hunger/pressure in case there is no food/practice available. By far the best way to do this – in my opinion – is to work with a qualified sport/performance psychologist like one of the members of our team.

Q is for Quantity and Quality

This is how we break down practice or effort. Quantity is ‘how much’ and wants to be in the right amount. Quality is how good and wants to be as high as possible. We often find it useful to multiply these together. For example, if the highest score for each is 10 then combined the highest score is 100.

What number did your last training session get?

R is for Routines

See my recent blog post for a full break down on routines.

S is for Stigma

There are still a huge number of people out there whose beliefs about what sports psychologists or performance psychologists do get in the way of us being able to help them. The stigma comes from the word ‘psychologist’ which too many people still associate with having some kind of mental problem. The general premise of working with a psychologist being a sign of weakness needs to be broken. A band-aid solution to this is to refer to ourselves as a coach or performance coaches or mental skills trainers instead. The issue with this is it doesn’t help to remove the stigma. Also, it seems a pity not to be able to use the title psychologist that took us seven or so years to earn.

T is for Time Management

Being able to manage your own time, your needs and your wants is one of the most underrated of all mental skills. I work with a LOT of young elite athletes (teenagers on track to be the world’s best in their chosen sport) and on the whole, they come to me with either poor or non-existent time management skills. Sometimes, a simple suggestion like buying a $5 diary to start recording upcoming commitments can do wonders in terms of accountability, planning, knowing when to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to invitations and moving their mindset more towards effort and further from results. For more on Time Managment see this separate post.

U is for Unity

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve the team unity of your team then watch the Unity video from the Metuf online program by clicking here.

V is for Values and W is for Why

Our values and beliefs guide our thoughts so if you’d like to update your daily thought processes then it can be a good idea to think about your values. By values, we really mean what you consider to be valuable or important. A nice little exercise to get the ball rolling is to simply list everything you consider to be important in your life and why. For example, you might write ‘8 hours of sleep a night’ and follow that with ‘because it helps me get the most of various training sessions the following day’. The ‘why’ part is very important as this links our endeavours to our internal motivation.

X is for eXcellence

Are you striving for excellence? Do you want to become excellent at what you do? How would you define and measure excellence? Is your training excellence? Do you know how to increase your chances of becoming the best possible athlete or coach you can be? If not get in touch and we’ll lend you a hand.

Y is for Yourself

One of the best ways of helping others is to look after yourself first.

Z is for Zest

Zest is one of the traits that we look for when we are interviewing psychologists looking to join our team of sport and performance psychologists. Do they have a passion for sports and helping athletes and coaches become better versions of themselves? If not, getting up at 5 am to deliver a Skype session to a monthly client from another country might just prove to be too hard.

Getting Into The Zone

Getting Into The Zone is something that sport psychologists have been helping athletes with for more than 50 years now

What, Or Where, Is The Zone?

Competing in sport, or even coaching it, brings with it a variety of emotions and mental experiences. Rightly or wrongly the positive ones have often been referred to as ‘the zone’. It’s not uncommon for athletes to say “I was in the zone today”. One of the more common requests we get is “can you help me get into the zone”?

The Zone and its cousin Flow are both describing a kind of effortless optimal performance. For both our internal process are not getting in the way of us being able to execute our skills to the best of our abilities.

These same internal experiences more commonly create barriers to effective performance. They can test an individual’s mental toughness by challenging their ability to self-regulate and manage these experiences constructively. Note the idea of “self-regulation” because we want our clients to develop the skills to do this on their own. Relying on others (which includes us as their performance psychologist) for this is a short term solution only.

Self Regulation is Psychbabble for Managing Your Emotions Yourself

The widely used Yerkes-Dodson Inverted U Stress Curve used to suggest that we should try and always be somewhat aroused. In other words, some nerves are better than no nerves before or during pressure situations.

This theory has two major flaws. Firstly, it overplays the role that emotions play in optimal performance. It incorrectly implies that athletes need to be feeling a certain way to perform at their best. We know this not to be true now. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence confirms that humans are quite capable of being excellent across a huge range of emotions. Secondly, the Yerkes-Dodson model suggests it’s bad to be too relaxed before you compete. This is BS. Unless you’re asleep and miss the opening whistle there is no downside to being very relaxed. In fact, if you decide to work 1-on-1 with one of our sport psychologists or performance psychologists then it’s likely they’ll introduce you to what we called the Relaxed Competition Mindset.

The Relaxed Competition Mindset

One way to begin to develop a Relaxed Competition Mindset is to understand the Zones of Awareness. These zones suggest that we can attend to information through three different zones. Zone One is an inner zone (physiological sensations). Zone Two is the middle zone (thoughts) and Zone Three is the outer zone (the five senses). When we are functioning well and coping with our situation, our awareness across these zones is balanced. This allows us to respond very effectively and efficiently. This is mighty useful in high-pressure situations because maintaining a balanced awareness means we can respond quickly to stimuli. In other words, we can maintain good levels of focus during perceived chaos.

When we find ourselves getting too caught up in one of the zones we can lose this balance. With this, our abilities can be impaired and we can experience distress, reducing the opportunity for optimal performance.

Being Outside Of The Zone

While each person is different, the way we respond to adversity can actually be quite universal. In such situations, people tend to become much more aware of their self-talk as well as their physiological state. “Oh my, I can actually feel my heart racing” for example.

When we first notice our thinking or physiology shifting in an unhelpful manner, using strategies such as mindfulness can prove effective.

When these experiences become too intense, trying to challenge our thoughts or become more aware of our body can be like we are putting fuel on an already burning fire. This is where the third zone (the outer zone) can become useful in helping us to manage.

The Five Senses

For touch, individuals competing outdoors might consider pulling out some of the grass from the field. Or tightly gripping a towel and noticing the feeling. What about taste? Eating as part of a pre-match routine can help but instead of quickly consuming the food, notice the flavours more. For each mouthful or while chewing gum, try to notice the release of flavour with each bite. With the sense of smell, noticing any smells in our environment such as muscle rub creams. For sight, individuals may ask themselves how many colours can they notice around them. Or how many people can they count wearing hats? For hearing, listening to music as part of a pre-match routine can really help get your head out of the way.

It’s Also A Matter of Timing

It should be noted that we don’t want to be considering these things while trying to execute skills. In other words, the majority of the Relaxed Competition Mindset work is down before we start competing.

Ultimately, that’s the key. We want to be able to shift our attention and focus where necessary to restore balance and composure to your internal state. In doing so, we remove some internal barriers to performance, which puts us in a position to meet our performance potential.


If you’d like our help Getting Into The Zone then below are few ways to contact us:

The Psychology of Sports Injuries

The Psychology of Sports Injuries is a short article exploring the mental aspects of a very common physical challenge faced by athletes – getting injured

The Psychology of Sports Injuries is one of the most common mental challenges
Sporting injuries are understandably regarded as the exclusive domain of physiotherapists yet there is growing evidence that the challenges are just as psychological in nature.

Introduction

The psychology of sports injuries is not exactly the same as the ones that can occur in non-sporting situations. For a start, they are much more likely to occur. High contact sports such as AFL, both rugby codes and American football are fraught with injuries. Secondly, the impact on goals and dreams of injuries for athletes are greater than for non-sporting performers. I am very mindful hat serious injuries can, of course, derail all types of dreams. However a dentist can still go to work with a torn ACL, a soccer player can’t. Hence the title of this article is The Psychology of Sports Injuries and not The Psychology of Injuries.

A large portion of what we write for the Digest is aimed at athletes who are in top physical condition. So what happens when you are get an unexpected injury and suddenly you are struggling both physically and mentally? This can be one of the most mentally challenging experiences athletes and performers face. Having a handful of tools and strategies to help you manage the journey can truly make a significant difference.

The Psychology of Sports Injuries is one of the most common of all mental challenges

I know first hand the mental pain and frustration athletes go through. In 2016 I ruptured my ACL for the second time and did 9-months of rehab. It’s interesting, though, because this frustration and emotion can come from a number of different places.

  • Disappointment and regret that the injury has occurred
  • Wondering what you could have done differently to prevent it
  • Watching your teammates still competing while you’re in a cast or brace
  • The setbacks or bad news you may receive along the journey
  • The fear that when you’re allowed to play you will find a way to injure yourself again.

With all of these thought patterns it’s crucial you have space where you can express these emotions. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you do – if fact it normal. After all, one of the major aspects of your life has just hit a major speedbump. As psychologists, our job is to help injured athletes turn that frustration into motivation.

One way we help our sidelined sporting clients do this is to talk about effort more than results.

All the statements I mentioned earlier exist outside of our bubble of responsibility because they are either influenceable or uninfluenceable.

They revolve around things such as the past, other people and the future. When we’re committing to our rehabilitation process we want to be sure our mind is focused on what we can control. This typically is our effort to our intended actions in the present moment.

By being injured we are restricted in our movements and achieving certain results – but we are not dead.

Developing An Optimal Mindset

The rewards and satisfaction from applying yourself to a gym or physiotherapy session can be just as motivating. It’s worth remembering that when you got the injury it was only your body [part] that was actually hurt – not your brain.

This development of confidence is also a key part of the rehabilitation process. It is important both in regaining skills confidence and in the part of my body that had been injured. We want to be able to trust that once we start competing again, our bodies will hold up. We don’t want to become distracted about the possibility of reinjury.

There are many mental strategies we can use that help us develop this confidence. They often revolve around the way we mentally map out the rehabilitation journey.

Baby Steps

A good way of viewing the situation is by seeing it as a process of stepping stones. Some of these stepping stones are going to be about our physical capabilities (strength, fitness and flexibility). Others are going to be very skill-set related.

The combination of these provides the complete picture of what is required for us to be at full capacity again. Each time we jump from one stone to the next this is another achievement and boost in our confidence that we’re heading in the right direction and further strengthens the trust we have in our body. This way of breaking things down doesn’t mean the journey won’t be challenging but allows it to be much more realistic and achievable. It also allows us to problem solve at a much more manageable level when things aren’t going our way.

Once we have successfully completed this rehabilitation journey and are ready to step back onto the field, we may be faced with new mental challenges. We may ask ourselves “Can I still compete at this level?”, “Am I ready?” or even “Have I done enough to be here?”.

You Don’t Have To Do It Alone

In taking the time to break down the journey into smaller parts and continually keeping the focus on the controllables, it allows us not only to develop the physical readiness to step out onto the field but also the mental readiness. Each stage along the way has allowed us to mentally keep track of the work we are doing and the achievements we have made.

Keep our expectations of the match focused on the controllables and not expect ourselves to do what we could the last time we were here but rather thinking about what the work we have done off the field has positioned us to do. In other words, applying our best effort to our intended actions in the present moment. Taking care of this ensures we remain in touch with ourselves throughout the match and play to the level we have prepared for.

Are you an athlete with an injury? If you are and wish to discuss the mental side of your rehabilitation then please get in touch. You can email me directly and confidentially at [email protected]. I would love to help and be a part of your journey back to full fitness.

Note that ‘The Psychology of Sports Injuries’ was first written in 2016 but updated twice in 2019.

[RADIO INTERVIEW]: How To Handle Racism In Sport

One of our performance psychologists, David, chats to Rod and Ian (ABC radio) about the tricky issue of how to handle racism in elite sport.

Radio Interview:

Full Transcription:

Rod:                                            Adam Good’s issue, I guess, what to have people saying are we overdoing it, and this is what I said at the outset, you know, I wonder if we are. Yet I thought the other side of this program is really to, it’s a review program, it’s a weekend review. So that’s possibly what we’re trying to do here rather than percolate it along a bit further. I don’t know if we’re succeeding in that.

Ian:                                             Well I want to see, well first off I wanted to look at the sort of car crash that was the event, but also to see what the … where now. And perhaps our next guest might be able to throw some logs on that. Rod?

Rod:                                            Yeah. David Barracosa, whose a Performance Psychologist from the Condor Performance Center I think it is, and he’s with his son via phone. David, good morning.

David Barracosa:           Good morning, thank you for having me.

Rod:                                            Now I don’t … thank you. Now I don’t know if you’ve been listening so far to our conversation?

David Barracosa:              Yeah David I’ve Been listening to certain parts of it, yes.

Rod:                                            The parts you like, you mean?

Ian:                                             Now David … I’m curious now, how would Adam Goods be feelings today when he saw the outpouring of support from clubs across Australia and also principally from his own club?

David Barracosa:             I think mainly the feelings that he would have would be around support and I think feeling, I suppose a sense of community? Like what the teams have done, the arm bands, the banners, the indigenous rounds doing decent work put on by rich, and I think it’s overwhelming feelings of support, I think would be his main experience today I think.

Rod:                                            What is it … that obviously would make him feel much better, I should imagine. But was it a conscious effort to try and make him feel better?

David Barracosa:          I think maybe it’s not necessarily just for Adam Good, but I think you hear about the impact it’s having on players beyond him as well. In the game, especially with him doing things like that. I think it was more looking at how do we um unite regarding this issue and how do kind of want to get it hence that sense of community. I don’t necessarily know what was specifically designed, like with certain things obviously the wearing of the number thirty-seven [inaudible 00:02:13]. One minute standing ovation but I think also it’s just looking at how do we intro everyone, feel supported regarding this issue.

Rod:                                            Yeah it’s amazing it’s such a dichotomy really because, I mean even in the AFL general season there is a indigenous round to celebrate the indigenous players and there is quite a few of them-

David Barracosa:          Mark legend rugby league.

Rod:                                            That’s right yeah, of course.

Ian:                                             So how would he feel do you think presumably he comes back next week and he comes out of the tunnel what do you think his mind set would be at that stage.

David Barracosa:           Well I think that’s an important thing and I think one of the big things that listening to all this and of the sport and performance psychology perspective. I think you need the biggest thing for Adam Goodwin would be what he is focused on, what his concentration is on and I think part of the support staff. One of the things they have to really work on is preparing him for football rather than preparing him for crowd reaction. Because crowd reaction and things like that are I suppose in a way um not necessarily things that we can control but one of the things we can is how do we focus ourselves on things like our effort the part of football we want to be playing. And I think you see more walking out of the tunnel with that type of mind set he is in a good position to I think play with like playing the way we have seen him play in the past

Rod:                                            Sorry mate could I, could I just focus in on just one thing as a psychologist yourself a performance psychologist put yourself in John Long mire’s shoes today and as you go into another week and maybe the match next weekend with Goods playing what would you as John Longmire be saying to him.

David Barracosa:             I think, well one of the biggest things I’ve been talking to him about is where his head is at with all of this. And I think only Adam Good would really know what he’s feeling and what he’s experiencing in regards to this so as his coach as one of the arcane member of the support staff I’d be wanting to know where are you at, what are you feeling at the moment, what’s going through your mind regarding-

Rod:                                            So you’d be listening, you’d be listening rather than talking.

David Barracosa:             Yeah I think initially definitely, I think initially with when it comes to issues, I mean it’s not this particular issue, but any kinda player welfare issue. I would wanna know where my player is at with that, what is going on for them and then how do I, how do I support them.

Speaker 4:                              Isn’t a part of the problem now, let’s take it as red that next Saturday he runs out onto the field with in effect everyone in the crowd at least at one level or another really wanting him to succeed. I mean obviously half the crowd won’t want him to succeed In the sense of losing. But they certainly don’t want to see him humiliated, or put down, or anything like that. But then we get to another imponderable, which is his capacity, his performance, what the opposition is like all of those other things. Now I know what’s in your head is vitally important I’m not disputing that but its also a game in which there a whole oust of imponderables. And if not everything is in sink, ya know if the other side doesn’t surrender immediately to the power and charm of the Sidney Swans, what happens then.

David Barracosa:          Well I don’t think failure is how you define that. Like for us one of the big things, and I think its on of the things we work with almost all of our athletes on is a lot of the problem we talk about expectations and weight of the expectations is very much focused on [inaudible 00:05:53] result the amount of disposal, the amount of goals we keep, the amount of scores and swears. One thing that I would like to talk to him about is, let’s try and create expectations regarding how you play the game rather than your output. And I know that the rest of the crowd, and the rest of the media, won’t look at it that way but for these guys that’s gonna be something that I think [inaudible 00:06:15] play the way that he is able to, and try to not count how many times he gets involved or how many goals did he keep, which is everyone else’s. So once again he cannot control that.

Speaker 4:                              David thee, I um agree with that, but there is an incredible propensity on the part of Australians that to think if we lost the cricket badly this week and a Michael Clark didn’t perform well then he is a bad person, then rather he didn’t perform well or something like that. We judge people by results, it’s a very competitive thing out. In that sort of sense the Adam Good story won’t end until we decide at the end of his sporting career whether he was a fabulous hero-

Ian:                                             But he’s not being moved cause he’s a loser. You cannot imagine a more winning individual in that sport.

Rod:                                            And that’s where it’s so contradictory really isn’t. It is.

Ian:                                             That’s the bewildering thing I mean do you bewilder by it David.

David Barracosa:          Yeah I think um, it’s something from my perspective like you kind of watch and you listen to it, and it does kinda leave you scratching your head from time to time. Because you look at the credentials of the man, you look at what he’s done to the AFL community, and the community in a border sense as well. Yeah I think, I think naturally I’m scratching my head kind of wondering-

Ian:                                             Does this dilemma have an effect on the rest of the team, can players be agnostic about what’s happening to their teammates around them or are they affected by it.

Speaker 4:                              Your confidence is affected by whether Don Bradman is playing with you or not.

Rod:                                            That’s David.

David Barracosa:        Yeah I think, I think definitely the other team you do, especially when a leader of your team, is impacted in a way or is affected in the way that he has been. I Think you do I suppose listen to that, and you are aware of that. And I think one of the big things, and I think there are two things that need to be really aware of here and its that, the support staff needs to not only support Adam Good but needs to support the rest of the team. I think it’s important that they also have their time to be able to debrief you saw kind of Louis Getter pay tribute you saw the guys kinda of um, they’re thinking about it and you wanna make sure that thinking about it doesn’t turn into a massive distraction on the field they got away with a good performance yesterday but you don’t want to carry you on and eventually them in any way.

Rod:                                            Alright great to talk to you David, and thanks so much for your time on a Sunday morning we really appreciate it.

David Barracosa:         Well thanks for having me again.

Rod:                                            Yeah thank you. David Barracosa who’s a performance psychologist from Condor Performance.

[RADIO INTERVIEW]: Precocious Sporting Talents

David Barracosa, Senior Performance Psychologist from Condor Performance, speaks to Fiona Wyllie (ABC) about ‘precocious sporting talents’.

Radio Interview:

Full Transcription:

Fiona:                                        Good afternoon this is Statewide Drive, 24 to 5:00 now and if you are earning the really high wages elite sports people earn, do you have a responsibility to entertain as well? Or if you know you’re about to lose why not get out of the ballpark as soon as you can? Nick Curious says Don Fraze’s comments about him tanking at Wimbledon are racist. Did you hear them on the Today show?

Dawn Frazer:                        I think it’s absolute disgusting. I just am so shocked to think that he went out there to play and he tanked, he did all that tanking. That’s terrible. That’s not a good Australian sports person and I do believe that Tennis Australia have done the right thing by saying that they’re not allowed to play in the David Cup. They’re two of the best players that we’ve had for a long while and sure, you might get upset but now tennis has changed so much. I think they’re getting so much money, Carl, and I just think that they’re a disgrace for Australian sports and women.

Speaker 3:                              Is it a case of these stars have got so much money and so much fame so early Dawn, that things like humility and striving to achieve is something that’s just kind of disappeared from the way they think they should be presented to the public?

Dawn Frazer:                        I agree with you Lisa, I think that’s the whole thing that brought too much money at a very early age. They’re being ill-advised by their management and they should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country, the great country of ours. If they don’t like it go back to where their fathers or their parents came from. We don’t need them here in this country they’re acting like that. We’ve gotta set a very good example for the younger children that playing all these sports. And I can’t see them wanting to be recognized when they get to my age. People won’t wanna talk to them.

Fiona:                                        Dawn Frazer talking on the Today show and her words certainly making some headlines around our country this afternoon. My number is 1-300 double six double two seven nine or send a text on zero four six seven, nine double two six eight four. Let’s talk about elite athletes and what’s going through their mind when they’re on sanded court or one of the important courts in the sporting world around the world. David Barracosa is at Condor Performance, a performance psychologist. David hello.

David Barracosa:              Hi Fiona, how are you?

Fiona:                                        I’m very well thanks. Now along the way, are manners anything to do with how we train our sports people?

David Barracosa:                I think it’s quite interesting because when you’re looking at athlete development and things like that often the technical side of things, the physical side of things are given a lot of attention. The mental side of things I think tend at times to be underdone for people which were manners would come into it, etiquette, humility, those type of things but also just helping younger athletes learn what’s important to focus on, what’s important to I suppose keep their mind occupied with rather than some of these distractions and variables that you see elicit really strong emotions and the behaviours that you’re talking about on your radio station today.

Fiona:                                        In the end it is a sport. They’re playing a game. Do we take it all far too seriously? Or do they to get the kind of results they do and be it that sort of standard have to take it very very seriously?

David Barracosa:                 I think it is a bit important to take it seriously but I think it’s even, a lot of people are talking about results and scores and what they’re achieving whereas I think for some of these younger athletes I think part of it is about being in the process of actually just playing tennis. It’s about the effort that they need to execute to play this sport well and I think the results come with that but I think sometimes we put the wagon in front of the horse and we get a bit carried away with what are they achieving whereas they are, it is a sport, it is something that is provided entertainment for many moons in the past and I think it’s about how do we help athletes?

David Barracosa:                And sometimes even coaches, how do we help coaches help their athletes to kind of bring it back to those basic elements that allow them to play at such a high level rather than just focusing on what they’re scoring at the end.

Fiona:                                        Because there is a great deal of entertainment in someone trying their best even if they don’t win. We love that don’t we? As sports enthusiasts?

David Barracosa:               Yeah definitely. I think at the end of the day we do kind of get hooked on these sports and we do love watching these entertainers of the game. Some of them very different in their styles. And I think that’s something important to consider. I don’t think everyone’s gonna have the same style in which they approach their sport. People are gonna be much more sort of outgoing and flamboyant about the way they do things, other people are gonna be much more grounded in the way that they do it. But I think it is about especially from what I’ve heard throughout the media today, I think a key element is are we seeing the effort from athletes? Are athletes giving the upmost effort that they can be, no matter what their style is or how their level of play is. Are they fighting to the very end?

David Barracosa:                 And I think that’s I suppose a big consideration from a sport and performance psychology perspective is around are they able to do that.

Fiona:                                        Okay, if one of your clients was throwing rackets around what would you be saying to them about the energy expended on that?

David Barracosa:                  Yeah I think if one of our clients at Condor Performance, if they were to go about doing that, I think we’d first wanna sit down and talk to them about what is going through your mind that’s leading to that? What’s creating such a frustration and emotion? And usually what we find is the thing behind it all, it’s usually things outside of their control. It’s things like umpires, it’s things like the last point, the other opponent hitting a fantastic win. I remember the crowd saying something et cetera. But what we wanna bring their attention back to is them. Because often it’s what they want to do and what they are willing to put into it that helps manage that emotion, but it’s so easy and I think we do it in all walks of life but especially in sports.

David Barracosa:                We get kind of really hooked up on those external factors that I suppose make it hard for us to play consistently and play with that mental consistency that I think’s so important and that’s something that were trying to constantly instil in our athletes is that mental consistency so you don’t see the lapses where people are taking it out on a piece of equipment or their racket because they’re unable to focus on the things that are really important.

Fiona:                                        Or the crowd, or the umpire as you said. And wasting that energy that could be used for getting an ace.

David Barracosa:             Yes. And I think not only wasting the energy but I think you watch the opponent last night, you watch Richard Gaska in the way that he responded, I think you can sometimes instil more confidence in your opponent. So not only are you losing energy you’re kind of taking the focus away from what you’re trying to do. You’re in a way giving energy to the opponent who’s seeing that and wants to take full advantage of that. On the flip side that’s what we’re telling our athletes is how do you keep your consistency going and not get caught up in that and I think that’s a mental skill in of itself as well.

Fiona:                                        So if you were smiling and looking like you’re not gonna get me, that is a method of getting one up against your opponent rather than losing it.

David Barracosa:              Well I think confidence, and I think confidence is something that’s so clearly visible in someone’s body language. The way someone carries themselves, the way someone even some of the self-talk that you hear the athletes doing like the come on’s of [inaudible 00:08:00] in the past and things like that. It does send a very strong message. And we don’t want people to be too focused on their opponent ’cause once again that’s an external variable that is gonna take you away from your game, but as a player if you can carry yourself with confidence and you can maintain that for long periods of time I think it does wonders not only for you and what your mindset is doing at that point in time but just your condition in that match as well. I think it does do a lot for your vibe that you’re sending out as well as I suppose the ebb and flows of the match itself.

Fiona:                                        David if you’ve got a couple of minutes to hear from our callers?

David Barracosa:             Yeah definitely.

Fiona:                                        Oh great. Patrick, hello.

Patrick:                                    Hi Fiona, how you going?

Fiona:                                        I’m well. You’ve got a story from your sporting days.

Patrick:                                    No not from my sporting days but in regard to defenders of Nick saying he was under a lot of stress. A few days ago I played a [inaudible 00:08:54] rugby player and writer told a story about the great cricketing man from the ’50s Case Miller, who’d been a battle of Britain Parlor I should say. And in a particularly tight test match a journalist asked him how much stress he was under. And he said stress, this isn’t stress. When you’ve got a [inaudible 00:09:17] up your rear end at 20,000 feet, that’s stress.

Fiona:                                        Putting it in perspective Patrick, thank you very much.

Patrick:                                    Thank you.

Fiona:                                        Buh bye. John’s in Port McCory, hello.

John:                                          Hello, how you going?

Fiona:                                        I’m well. You think that Dawn Frazer has said some things that she shouldn’t of?

John:                                          I think so. I think you can’t say that somebody should go back to their own country and that we’ve gotta better stand the behavior here or not. We’re all humans, we’re all fallible. I think that was just a bit [inaudible 00:09:52] really.

Fiona:                                        Okay.

John:                                          I think we’re all cut with the same brush and I think Paul only curious, Paul’s a young black. Come on. Give him a bit of a break and a lot of [inaudible 00:10:07] mistakes in life.

Fiona:                                        John thanks for calling. Greg from [inaudible 00:10:12] says most of what Dawn said made sense but she just blew it with a stupid comment about going back to where their parents came from. And Greg goes on to say I bet she’s regretting it now.

John:                                          Yeah I’d agree with that I think, yeah.

Fiona:                                        Thanks John. Someone else saying they think that Curious and Tomack are okay. Jack says the behavior of some of these young male tennis players is appalling, makes me feel ashamed to be Australian. From Dominic, arrogance and impatience are a downfall of many coupled with money and success and you have a recipe for disaster. Limit the payment to youngsters with increments applying, the remainder they get on retirement coupled with behavior training. Well that’s what we’re talking about with you isn’t it David?

David Barracosa:              I’d say that’s spot on.

Fiona:                                        Is the money thing a big part of it do you think?

David Barracosa:             I think the money thing, I think it really does depend on the person. I think there’s so many factors that are needed to be considered when it comes to money. I think that it’s spoken about a lot in the states with young college athletes and stepping to the pros. A lot of these like tennis and golf or a lot of youngsters can kind of make a lot of money very quickly, I think money does put pressure on people and it can change a person but I think if you’re able to have a certain character, if you’re able to have the right support people in place around you, I think you can kind of manage those sort of changes to your lifestyle and changes to I suppose the circumstances you find yourself in.

Fiona:                                        What about the power of ego? Because Judy from Round Mountain says Tomak and Curious will never be champions. Their egos will stop them from achieving what they are capable of.

David Barracosa:                Yeah and I think that’s quite an interesting one because I think it’s where, it’s that kind of line between someone having really strong confidence and self-belief and then that line where it steps into being kind of egotistical and things like that. I think for the athletes you want to see them where they have that I suppose self-awareness and self-acknowledgement, self-confidence but you don’t want it to be that it becomes I just rest on that. You wanna see people constantly applying themselves and I think that’s sometimes where some young athletes, and even some old athletes to tell you the truth, fold down when it comes to the ego. It keeps them from being champions because they don’t put the work in, they don’t put the effort in to I suppose achieve the next level and achieve the next kind of step up in their sport which only hard work and dedication can get you at the end of the day.

Fiona:                                        David good to talk to you, thank you very much for joining us.

David Barracosa:          Terrific thank you for having me.

Fiona:                                        David Barracosa who’s from Condor Performance and is a performance psychologist talking about one of our young tennis stars. It is 11:05, you’re with Fiona Wiley on Statewide Drive.

Speaker 7:                              On the next Conversations …

Speaker 8:                              Garth Calendar was a junior officer with the Australian Army in Iraq. One morning his crew was targeted in a roadside bomb attack and Garth became Australia’s first serious casualty in the war. He recovered, returned to Iraq, and then volunteered for Afghanistan to prevent the kind of bomb attacks that had nearly killed him.

Speaker 7:                              Join Sara Konosky for Conversations, tomorrow morning from 11:00 on ABC New South Wales.

Fiona:                                        Good afternoon, you’re with Statewide Drive and we’ve been talking about tennis players. Pete is in Nambucca Heads, hello Peter.

Speaker 9:                              Yeah, hi Fiona.

Fiona:                                        You wanna talk about tennis officials.

Speaker 9:                              Well just the game itself, the way the game is run. The chap that you just had on speaking.

Fiona:                                        He’s a psychologist.

Speaker 9:                              Yeah yeah the psychologist chap, yeah. He was talking about the fact that youngsters make a lot of money early in their lives out of tennis and golf. But the world of golf runs the game way differently than tennis because if you behaved in any slight manner that these young men are behaving in you would be rubbed out for five to 10 years or life.

Fiona:                                        Would you? I’ve seen them throwing their golf sticks around.

Speaker 9:                              No they don’t. No they don’t because they’re taught from the very beginning that you are not bigger than the game, you are just an individual and you can make a good living here so behave yourself or we will chuck you out.

Fiona:                                        Okay. I’m sure I’ve seen, my dad spends hours watching sport and I’m sure I’ve seen them throwing their golf sticks. I don’t watch a lot so I can’t be sure.

Speaker 9:                              No they never do.

Fiona:                                        Never do?

Speaker 9:                              No it is not allowed at all. You throw a golf club or you abuse an official, you’re out.

Fiona:                                        Okay.

Speaker 9:                              And tennis is gutless.

Fiona:                                        Okay Peter good to hear from you.

Speaker 9:                              See you Fi.

Fiona:                                        Thank you. From Peter Port McCory, McEnroe was a tennis brat ’til his late years. Nick Curious is starting early with bad behavior, he needs a long holiday. Dawn’s comments are correct says Peter. Re the ill-tempered sports people, the various sports codes need to simply not accept bad behavior as we heard from Peter in Nambucca Heads about the golf. And have the person leave the court or the field. This is the same principle as domestic violence. As long as the victim remains the behavior is being accepted and inadvertently condoned. Cease to accept the behavior and you will teach better behavior much quicker. This behavior is unacceptable on a court or field or anywhere in society. No work place would accept it and this is the sports person’s workplace. Liz in Winona, thank you very much for joining in the discussion this afternoon here on ABC News South Wales.